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What Is the Pull-Out Method and How Does It Work?

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The pull-out method, or withdrawal, is a kind of birth control used during vaginal sex. It involves someone pulling their penis out of a vagina before ejaculation (orgasm). Many people use the withdrawal method. Some people think it’s the world’s oldest way to practice birth control!

How effective is the pull-out method at preventing pregnancy?

For the effectiveness of birth control, there’s a difference between perfect use and typical use. Perfect use is the effectiveness when someone uses the method correctly every single time. Typical use is how someone usually uses the method. They might do it correctly most of the time, but sometimes make mistakes.

With perfect use, pulling out can be 96% effective in preventing pregnancy. Only 8% of couples using the pull-out method perfectly will become pregnant in 1 year.

However, many people can make mistakes, like pulling out too late, not realizing they’ve started ejaculating, or ejaculating too early. Also, it’s sometimes possible for pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) to contain a very small amount of sperm. So pulling out is 73% effective with typical use. 18-27% of people become pregnant in 1 year from typical use of withdrawal

How do I use the pull-out method correctly?

To use the pull-out method correctly, you should withdraw the penis from the vagina well before ejaculating. It’s important not to wait until you’ve started to orgasm, because then semen can get into the vagina.

There are a few more things you can do to make withdrawal more effective:

  • Peeing after every ejaculation. This can clear out any remaining sperm in the urethra (the tube in the penis where semen comes out). This makes sure that the next time you have sex, your pre-cum (the clear liquid that comes out of an erection) won’t have sperm in it.
  • Learning when you’re going to ejaculate. You can practice by masturbating and paying attention to how it feels right before you orgasm (cum).
  • Pulling out early and ejaculating away from the vagina, like on another body part or into a tissue. It’s important to be careful if you ejaculate very close to the vagina. If some semen runs inside the vagina, this could lead to pregnancy.
  • Combining withdrawal with other types of birth control, like condoms or the pill.
  • Talking to your partner about their menstrual cycle. Some people are more likely to get pregnant after ovulating. Learning about your partner’s fertility can help you plan to avoid pregnancy.

What are the risks of using the pull-out method?

The pull-out method doesn’t involve a barrier, so it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s important to know your STI status and your partner’s STI status if you want to try pulling out. You can also combine withdrawal with a condom, which can protect you against STIs.

Check out the resources below to learn more about the pull-out method.

More info:

  • The withdrawal/pull-out method

    Scarlateen article which outlines facts about the withdrawal method (the what, why, when, and how to) as well as the pros/cons/risks associated with using this method as a form of contraception, and alternative/backup means of prevention.

  • The Problem with the Withdrawal Method

    Scarleteen answers a questions from a reader who’s partner doesn’t like condoms and wants to use the withdrawal method. Find out more about why this method is not reliable and why condoms are one of your best options for protection.

  • Birth Control Comparison Chart and Pregnancy Rates

    US-based Kidhealth.org lists and compares different types of birth control including information on how effective they are and if they also protect against STIs.

  • Birth Control Methods: How Well Do They Work?

    A comparison chart for the different kinds of birth control.

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